Josh was born in Guildford, Surrey, UK, in 1989. As a child, Josh seemed a little different to other children in his pre-school playgroup, but appeared to be coping OK. At age 5 he was home schooled by his mother Julia, an experienced school teacher. However, after 2 years, the needs of his autistic younger brother became apparent and Josh joined a near by, well respected primary school. He experienced difficulties integrating with his peers and soon became the victim of low level bullying. The school attempted to try and integrate him into school life by assigning him a “buddy”. However this scheme did not work. He quickly became the butt of jokes, and was always given the worst jobs in games by his “friends”. During this time, he was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
Just before Josh was transferred to one of the top secondary schools in Surrey, his parents requested a meeting with the school to try and put in the support he would need. This was turned down. Within the first half term, Joshua was suffering from severe depression and by Christmas, he had attempted suicide. He found some solace in horse riding at his local stables, where he worked on Saturdays. Despite repeatedly telling his schoolteachers about what he was experiencing, the school did not do anything to help. Joshua has regularly stated that he does not blame the teachers for their lack of understanding due to the fact they didn’t have any training on Autistic Spectrum Disorders. He was referred to Child And Family Mental Health Services, where he regularly saw a Clinical Psychologist. Shortly after this, he was formally diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, something which did not come as a surprise to Josh, as he had self diagnosed himself when listening to a recording of a lecture by Tony Attwood, a world renowned speaker on Aspergers syndrome.
Josh’s mental state got progressively worse, and his school attendance continued to decline. In early 2004 he had a nervous breakdown and was unable to attend school. At this point, Education Other Than At Schools service (EOTAS) tried to re-integrate him. However, after 9 months of trying to be re-integrated, his psychiatrist signed him off school because his mental health had suffered too much.
Because of the stress levels, Josh said that he was unable to remember much of his school experiences, and that he had to “express study” his GCSEs in the next 5 months. The local council provided 5 hours one to one tuition, which his parents supplemented with another 2 hours. He also took part in an online learning program run by Satellite Virtual Schools. Because of the huge stress his school had caused him, Josh was unable to take his GCSEs at school, and had to take them at Surrey County Council offices. During this time, he took gave his first talk to 20 SENCOs for 20 minutes. This went down well and would prove to be the stepping stone onto other talks. Joshua achieved grade C in GCSE Maths, Business Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, ICT, English Literature and English Language, along with a B grade at Religious Studies.
Over the next summer, Josh spent time trying to find a form of education that he could participate in while recovering from his experiences. From September 2005 to February 2006, Joshua studied AS level Maths, Computer Science, Physics and Economics with Satellite Virtual Schools. During this time, he was offered his second speaking opportunity, this time talking to Masters degree students. After Josh’s January GCSE modules, he felt that he could not continue to study in this way as he learned better in a class room setting, which Satellite school did not provide.
Shortly after, Josh gave a talk to approximately 100 people at the 2005 National Autistic Society members meeting for the south east regional membership. After an extremely positive reception, Josh was offered the chance to be a key speaker at the National Autistic Society’s launch of their Make School Make Sense campaign in the House of Commons. After another positive reception, he started to get lots more talks.
That summer, Josh was again looking for a place to study. After a fortuitous speaking opportunity, he found himself training staff at a residential college specifically for people with Asperger’s Syndrome, based in Somerset – Farleigh Further Education College in Frome. Joshua was offered a place at short notice due to a last minute cancellation. The college provided him with food, accommodation, and one to one support both when boarding and when attending The City of Bath College, where he studied Maths, Business studies and Physics. In November 2006 he was interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 program “Am I normal?”, and also a live prime time interview for BBC Radio 5 live, and BBC Radio 1. He also gave an interview to a major tabloid newspaper.
The next summer (2007), after reviewing his AS level grades, Josh decided to drop AS Physics (in which he achieved a D grade) in favour of AS Psychology. He also did an interview for a More 4 News segment, alongside other talks that year. Shortly after starting his second year of A levels, Joshua found that he had a talent for Psychology, and was encouraged to take the whole Psychology A level in one year. University applications followed – something he previously thought he would not be able to achieve. Later that year, he did a live international broadcast for CNN.
In early 2008, Josh was offered the opportunity to take part in Channel 4’s YearDot Programme, a TV and Internet based project, which followed him and 14 other young people though a year of their lives. In August 2008, Joshua achieved an A grade in A level Psychology, an A grade in A level maths, and a B grade an A level Business studies, and was consequently accepted into the University of St Andrews to study Psychology.
During his time at university, he joined the students union technical production crew (which he headed up in his final year), putting on events on a daily basis in the union. He also sat on the Union Council, and was a regular union DJ. During the summer holidays, Joshua wrote his first book, Raising Martians , and worked as an Assistant Psychologist in a local private practice specialising in Autism. He also published his third year extended essay Classifying the Autistic Spectrum: Can it be done? Evaluation of current, future and alternative ways of classifying the Autistic Spectrum in the journal Good Autism Practice. The essay went on to win highly commended at the international undergraduate awards. In 2012, after accruing an additional 7 academic awards, Josh was awarded a Bachelor’s of Science with First Class honours in Psychology, as well as a commendation for outstanding contribution to Psychology. Shortly after, he obtained Graduate Membership of the British Psychological Society.
In September 2012 Josh began studying for a Masters of Research in Clinical Psychology at the University of Birmingham, where his research focused on heath psychology emotional health issues. His thesis was accepted in October 2013, and published in the BMJ: Supportive and Palliative Care. After finishing his studies, Josh returned to his work as an Assistant Psychologist.
While studying at Birmingham, Josh was awarded a prestigious Winston Churchill Memorial Trust scholarship to investigate the adaptation of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for people with Autism. To that end, in January 2014 he traveled to the world-renowned Minds and Hearts Clinic in Australia to intern for eight weeks under Prof Tony Attwood and Dr Michelle Garnett. The main aim if the fellowship is to bring back best practice for psychological interventions in people with Autism, an area poorly understood in the UK. As a result of this project, Josh has been awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts.
Shortly after returning from Australia, Josh applied for training to become a Clinical Psychologist. In May 2014 he was accepted to the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology course at the University of Edinburgh. Having completed his core placements, Josh is currently in his final and specialist year, focusing on child development (specifically Autism) and Paediatrics. His doctoral research has focused on gender differences in Autism Spectrum Disorders, detailed in the research pages. While studying, Josh also published a paper outlining his experience of clinical training with Autism.